Furyk Earns Return Trip to Masters

PGA Tour stalwart Jim Furyk has eked his way into the 2012 Masters. The first major championship of the year starts April 5 at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.

Among the many criteria for an invitation to the Masters is to be in the top-50 of the World Golf Rankings at the end of the prior season. Despite not having one of his best seasons, the 41-year-old Furyk, the 2010 PGA Tour Player of the Year and 2003 U.S. Open champion, finished 2011 ranked 50th.

Two South Africans with multiple major titles are ranked outside the top-50 due to disappointing seasons. Three-time major champion Ernie Els is 56th and two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen is 53rd.

Despite a pair of top-three finishes in January, Goosen had several injuries that led to his worst season since 1995, while Els dropped out of the top-50 for the first time since 1993.

Both Els and Goosen can still earn a spot in the 77th Masters by winning an event between now and the invitational or getting back into the top-50 by the week prior to the tournament.

The 2012 Masters' field contains, at the end of 2011, at least 91 players. It's uncertain at this time how many former champions - who are automatically eligible - will compete. In general, Augusta National seeks to keep the field at no more than 100 players.